vanilla

noun
va·​nil·​la | \ və-ˈni-lə How to pronounce vanilla (audio) , -ˈne- How to pronounce vanilla (audio) \

Definition of vanilla

 (Entry 1 of 2)

b : a commercially important extract of the vanilla bean that is used especially as a flavoring
2 : any of a genus (Vanilla) of tropical American climbing epiphytic orchids

vanilla

adjective

Definition of vanilla (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : flavored with vanilla
2 : lacking distinction : plain, ordinary, conventional

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Did You Know?

Adjective

For lexicographers, vanilla has more flavor than chocolate, because it adds a tasty synonym for plain to the English menu. The noun vanilla was first served up in 1662, but it took almost 200 years for its adjective use to become established for things, like ice and sugar, flavored with vanilla. By the 1970s vanilla was perceived as being the plain flavor of the ice-cream world, and people began using the word itself to describe anything plain, ordinary, or conventional.

Examples of vanilla in a Sentence

Noun

The frosting is flavored with vanilla.

Adjective

The décor is pretty vanilla. a plain vanilla version of a song that's been recorded more times than necessary
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Dreamsicle Hard Malt: Blood orange Bravazzi Hard Italian Soda is blended together with vanilla ice cream for a spin on a classic. Nancy Ngo, Twin Cities, "Minnesota State Fair announces new beers, drinks for this year," 29 July 2019 In a clip originally shared by Rock 95 on Wednesday, a baby in a cap can be seen dipping his toes into a vanilla ice cream cone and transporting the ice cream to his mouth. Ashley Hoffman, Time, "Baby Makes Excellent Use of His Foot to Eat Ice Cream and People Appreciate It," 25 July 2019 Chocolate is more popular than vanilla ice cream in Michigan, the poll shows. Anna Bauman, Detroit Free Press, "Superman is Michigan's favorite ice cream flavor," 12 June 2019 Skip the affogato for the tea version, London Snow ($6.25), with loose leaf Earl Grey sprinkled atop Madagascar vanilla ice cream. Jackie Burrell, The Mercury News, "6 best new, eclectic Bay Area coffee houses," 8 June 2019 Bronson’s favorite is the affogato: vanilla ice cream with a shot of hot espresso. Ava Garcia, azcentral, "What to expect at Stir Coffee Bar and Gin and Reel, a coffee shop and speakeasy coming to Phoenix this fall," 16 July 2019 Made in a style last popular in the 1800s, the blend of malted and unmalted barley with rye imported from the English countryside provides a mouthfeel that screams vanilla cream, rounded out by mellow notes of clove and spice. Fortune, "5 Bottles That Will Put You at the Center of Irish Whiskey’s Renaissance," 13 July 2019 Thomas Jefferson returned from his diplomatic post in France with a recipe for vanilla ice cream, proof that one of our founding fathers would approve of celebrating next Sunday. Mary Ann Ashcraft, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, "Carroll Yesteryears: As National Ice Cream Day approaches, remembering Carroll’s early parlors and creameries," 12 July 2019 With the permission of Wilson’s owner, Stephen Rampersad, the servers at Shaggy’s Restaurant — knowing about the dog’s condition — gave him a bowl of vanilla ice cream, and that was just the beginning, the News Journal said. Stephen Ruiz, orlandosentinel.com, "With burger, bacon and more, Florida restaurant ensures dog’s life ends happily — and with full stomach: report," 11 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'vanilla.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of vanilla

Noun

1662, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Adjective

1846, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for vanilla

Noun

borrowed from New Latin, borrowed from Spanish vainilla "the vanilla plant and fruit," diminutive of vaina "sheath, pod," going back to Latin vāgīna "scabbard, sheath"; replacing earlier vaynilla, borrowed from Spanish

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Statistics for vanilla

Last Updated

12 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for vanilla

The first known use of vanilla was in 1662

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More Definitions for vanilla

vanilla

noun

English Language Learners Definition of vanilla

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a dark substance that is made from the beans of a tropical plant and that is used to flavor food

vanilla

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of vanilla (Entry 2 of 2)

: having the flavor of vanilla
chiefly US, informal : not having any special features or qualities

vanilla

noun
va·​nil·​la | \ və-ˈni-lə How to pronounce vanilla (audio) , -ˈne-\

Kids Definition of vanilla

: a substance extracted from vanilla beans and used as a flavoring especially for sweet foods and beverages

vanilla

noun
va·​nil·​la | \ və-ˈnil-ə How to pronounce vanilla (audio) , -ˈnel- How to pronounce vanilla (audio) \

Medical Definition of vanilla

b : a commercially important extract of the vanilla bean that is prepared by soaking comminuted vanilla beans in water and ethyl alcohol and that is used especially as a flavoring (as in pharmaceutical preparations)
2 : any of a genus (Vanilla) of tropical American climbing orchids

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